Staying Engaged A Q&A with Stephanie Wolfe '99, Alumni Board president, on serving the university, influential professors and women in leadership roles.
“No contribution – whether it be of time or money – is too big or too small.”
~ Stephanie Wolfe ’99
Congrats on taking the helm as Alumni Board president! Why was it important to you to serve in this role?
Thank you. It has been a great pleasure serving on the Alumni Board since 2016, and I’m honored to have been chosen by the board to be president of the Association. Ten years ago, I got involved in the Northern New Jersey Chapter, and I treasure the W&L friendships and connections I have made in New Jersey and beyond. I grew up in east Tennessee, and my husband and I do not have family living nearby, so the W&L community has become family for me. As an Alumni Board member, I have loved learning more about the university, its operations and all of the opportunities we make available to students. I continue to be amazed by the dedication of everyone in the university community. Volunteering my time is the least I can do to give my thanks for the opportunity to attend college here.
As president, are there specific projects that you’re excited to tackle?
I think one of the most essential projects in the coming year is for the Board to reexamine how we can be even more helpful to the university and to our fellow alumni as conduits of accurate information. The university does a great job with its communications, but the board looks forward to working with President Dudley, Beau Dudley ’74, ’79L, executive director of Alumni Engagement, and Jessica Willett ’95, chief communications officer, to keep alumni informed with facts, direct them to the multitude of informational resources the university provides and share their questions and concerns in a timely and constructive manner. We will then be able to inform the alumni we know or hear from.
Were there professors at W&L who helped shape your academic/professional career
Definitely. I majored in European history and German language, which admittedly have little direct bearing on my career as an attorney and small business owner. Professor Ted DeLaney ’85, my faculty advisor in the History Department, took me under his wing, as he does with so many W&L students and I am a better human being because of his caring and concern. His engagement with the university community is a driving factor in my own efforts to remain an engaged alumna, and my service to W&L can be directly traced back to Ted’s example. Kirk Follo and Roger Crockett were also wonderful professors and advisors in the German Department. I also loved seminars with Winston Davis and Eduardo Velasquez in religion and politics. They all played an important role in my ability to think critically and thoughtfully.
What would you like to emphasize to fellow W&L alumni and friends when it comes to giving back to the university?
No contribution – whether it be of time or money – is too big or too small. There are innumerable ways to stay connected and involved: interviewing high school students as part of the Alumni Admissions Program, planning and attending an event, returning to campus for a class reunion, supporting the Annual Fund, offering to host an event at your home or office and helping your local chapter succeed are just a few examples. We have an amazing team in Alumni Engagement, and they can help any alumnus or alumna connect with his or her chapter’s leadership.
What extracurricular activities were important to you at W&L?
All of them. I have such fond memories of being an alto in Chamber Singers and our trip to the Czech Republic and Hungary in 1998. Serving as a resident assistant in Gaines Hall for two years, heading up the Move-in Day effort as a part of the Freshman Orientation Committee and serving on the Student-Faculty Hearing Board were extremely challenging and rewarding experiences. I had a great time with my Pi Beta Phi sorority sisters. I also spent the better part of two very hot summers in Lexington as a counselor for the Summer Scholars program and as a Robert E. Lee research scholar in political philosophy.
What do you consider as the most important qualities of a strong leader, and what would you say to encourage more women to pursue leadership roles?
I think a strong leader needs to be a good listener and communicator with superb organizational skills. Most women I know, and certainly W&L women, have those qualities in abundance.
This is not an easy question to answer without stringing together a lot of clichés and sweeping generalizations, but, in my own experience, I have never regretted accepting a challenge. However, I have regretted the times when I did not seize opportunities or sold myself short. I find that with a little creativity, support from family members (which I have to be very direct in asking for) and prioritizing what is most important in a given day, week or year, that I have the time to take on new challenges, including leadership roles. I have also found that I am more effective when I cut back on multitasking and give my full focus and attention to a particular task or project. So, my advice would be to figure out what is important to you and do not underestimate your abilities.